Bringing Samba de Amigo to America

  Samba... de Fro-migo!
The GIA staff Sambas our E3 away

    When Sega announced they were bringing Samba de Amigo stateside, more than a few gamers scratched their heads, wondering how a dancing monkey named Amigo, his psychotropic landscapes, and a pair of digital maracas could ever succeed in the U.S. market. Konami had shied away from localizing any of the massively popular Beatmania series, and despite a flourishing import market, gaming's biggest trend had remained gaming's biggest secret in America.

    It was clear at this past E3 that Sega had tossed those concerns aside and given the title their full support -- and since its release, gamers from Shigeru Miyamoto to the GIA's own staff have recognized it as one of the most enjoyable and unique games ever created. For the full story on bringing this distinctly Japanese title to an entirely U.S. audience, the GIA went straight to the source: the localization team at Sega of America. Here are their thoughts on this quirky underground hit that no one who likes gaming, music, or dancing monkeys should be without.

GIA: Samba de Amigo is the first music game with a special peripheral to be released in the U.S. What made Sega decide that America was ready for a game of this sort?

Localizers: Samba de Amigo was a smash-hit in the arcades. It is only natural that Sega of America would want to translate that success into the home environment. We decided that America was ready for this type of game when we received an enormous amount of positive feedback when we released hints that the game was coming. Therefore, being a true gaming company, we decided to ship the title as well as the maracas peripherals.

GIA: How long did localizing Samba take?

L: About 4 months or so, give or take a few weeks.

GIA: How does that compare to the time spent on a "normal" game?

L: That's about standard for a game that size.

GIA: What kind of challenges were presented by localizing a game with very little text?

L: There were not many challenges presented by localizing Samba de Amigo - the fact that the game is music-based, and doesn't have much text, makes localization much easier. It greatly cuts down on time spent for translation.

Welcome to the fold...
Even the competition couldn't resist

GIA: Was anyone afraid that the wild visual style of the game, featuring dancing monkeys and butterfly queens, would be too off-putting for American audiences?

L: Not at all. In fact, we embraced the graphics of this game and used these features and characters as key marketing and promotional tools.

GIA: How does Sega plan to market such a unique (and expensive) game to a public that's never seen anything like it before?

L: A key element to the marketing plan for Samba de Amigo is sampling. We hope to get as many people as possible to play this game with the maracas peripherals and we feel that after their unique experience, they will be hooked!

Sega of America also executed an extensive Maraca promotion and giveaway on The goal was to get maracas in the hands of as many people as possible.

GIA: At one point, there was a rumor that a U.S. band was so intrigued by the game that they offered to record an original song especially for the American version. What decisions were behind differences from the Japanese song list?

L: These decisions were mainly based on what we could clear with licensing in the time given. Though we received multiple offers from U.S. bands for additional songs, we could not accommodate all of the requests.

  Nich Maragos - Samba God
Be the monkey

GIA: Can you address the reports that the production of maracas will fall well short of the number of games?

L: First, it is important to point out that gamers can also play Samba de Amigo with the standard Dreamcast controller, and the game does not require the maraca peripheral. Due to their high price of the maracas, there will be less maracas shipped than games. However there are plans in place to increase shipments should the demand for maracas increase.

GIA: How do you think playing without the maracas affects the gameplay experience?

L: Playing with the standard Dreamcast controller, players will still enjoy the same music and visual experience of Samba de Amigo. However, the maraca peripheral adds a whole new level of interactivity and truly enhances the Samba experience.

GIA: Do you think other genres could learn something from the fun-loving style of games like Samba de Amigo?

L: Certainly Samba de Amigo challenges game developers to continue to innovate and design games that further involve the user and make for a social gaming environment.

GIA: Lastly - and be honest - did anyone on the team ever imitate Amigo?

L: No comment.

    The GIA would like to thank the fine folks at Sega and Access for this interview. Readers interested in ordering Samba de Amigo can do so directly from Sega, and smart gamers are advised to be patient and go in for a pair of maracas as well. Samba's arcade sequel has been confirmed for a U.S. release, so grab some maracas and some friends to make sure you're ready!

Interview by Ed McGlothlin and Nich Maragos, GIA.
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